Castles on the Sand (Shattered Castles, #1)
by E.M. Tippetts
Release date: August 20, 2012
Contemporary Romance/coming of age/Young Adult
Event organized by: AToMR Tours
"A fast-paced blend of high-stakes drama and average teenage concerns (sex, appearance, friends), capped with a welcome message of hope." ~Kirkus Reviews
If there’s one thing Madison Lukas understands, it’s pain. The pain she feels when her mother ignores her completely. The pain her best friend endures as her parents starve her as punishment. The pain of a dangerous boy whose mother has to be carried away by law enforcement on a regular basis.
She gets it. She feels the pain of others as if it were her own.
But when a mysterious man claiming to be her long lost brother appears with promises of relieving her suffering, trusting him could reveal more truths than Madison is ready for. Because the truth can hurt, too.
Several hours later, as I'm drying my hair, the doorbell rings, or I think it does. I turn off the hairdryer and listen. Sure enough, it rings again. I put my hair up in a ponytail.
When I go to answer the door, I find those same two Mormon missionaries from the other day on my doorstep. “Madison, right?” he says the blond one. His name tag says he is Elder Britton.
Kailie must've told him my name.
Udall is Mom's last name, and the way Elder Britton breaks off lets me know that he saw my reaction. “No,” I say.
“Madison...” He frowns, deep in thought. “Lukas?”
Now I just stare. How on Earth would he know my last name?
At that, the missionary's eyes moisten with barely contained tears. “Listen. My name's John Britton, and I'm your brother.”
For what feels like eternity, Elder Britton and I just stare at each other. Then he presses his palms together in front of his face and shakes his head slowly. “I don't know what to say right now, other than sorry. I know I scared you yesterday. I wasn't thinking. One minute I'm just out tracting and the next, there you are, plain as day. I've been looking for you for fifteen years.”
“Elder Britton,” says the other missionary. “You sure?”
“Your name is Madison Lukas,” he recites, “and your mother, our mother, is named Sharon Udall. She used to be Sharon Britton. She's got dark blond hair, about this color-” he points to his own head “-and you'd be sixteen years old, as of last April twenty-seventh. Mom would have turned forty on December fourth.”
I can only stare. All the facts are right, but the situation feels all wrong. For my entire life, it's been just me and Mom. Every time I asked about my father, she'd say, “He's long gone, so it doesn't matter.” She never mentioned being married before or having other kids, and that seems like the sort of thing you'd bring up now and then.
He looks around at the large pot that doubles as an umbrella stand just inside the door, the wall hangings with glazed clay scales that overlap like fish scales, the potshard wind chime on the front porch, and the enormous planters on either side of the front door. “I'm gonna to out on a limb and guess that she still makes pottery.”
“And I have no idea what to say now. Or do.”
“Hey,” says the other missionary, “you'll be released from your mission in less than a week. Figure it out then? Maybe we call the mission president now just to let him know?”
“Yeah, good point. Listen, Madison, we're not supposed to have contact with our families outside of letters or emails while we're on our missions. I'll get in touch with you the moment I finish mine, all right?”
“Um...” That's about all I can say. I try to force my thoughts into some kind of order. “Mom was Mormon?”
“She didn't tell you about that?”
“She never told me about you.”
“Really? At all?”
I shake my head.
“Then this has to be really, really strange for you. She mention Lance and Logan?”
“Who are they?”
His eyebrows shoot up. “The twins? They're our oldest brothers.”
The world shifts under my feet and I grab the doorframe to steady myself. From the way both missionaries look at me, I can tell it wasn't an earthquake. It was my knees starting to buckle.
The guy who claims to be my brother radiates sympathy and concern, and now that I take a good look at him, I have to admit, he does look like Mom. Same shape to the eyes. Same stance, one shoulder forward. Same way of pursing his lips.
I picture Mom, back in the shed, oblivious to all of this, and wonder if I should mention she's only about thirty feet away. She does not tolerate interruptions while throwing pots, but this is the most extreme circumstance I can think of.
“Okay,” says the other missionary. “We need to call the mission president. Madison, Elder Britton, write down your email addresses. We'll figure out what to do once we talk to our priesthood leaders.”
“Yeah, okay,” says my alleged brother. “Right. Sure.” He pulls a pad of paper out of his breast pocket and starts to write. After he rips the page off like a doctor tearing off a prescription, he hands it to me. With shaking fingers, I write down my email address, while a little voice at the back of my mind babbles that I shouldn't give this info out to a stranger. What if, it babbles, this missionary is a stalker? What if he's wearing a disguise? Maybe he looked up all this information on me, put on a suit, got a name tag, and this is all part of some elaborate ruse?
I should take him back to see Mom. I should stop right here, right now, and take control of this situation.
I finish writing and hand the pad of paper back. He takes it, tucks it in his pocket, looks into my eyes, and says, “I'll talk to you soon. Any questions you have, ask, okay?” He hands me his email address and I fold it over and over again.
The other missionary guides him away from our door with a hand on his shoulder and pulls a cellphone out of his pocket. “...figure this out...” I hear him say.
I make myself step back and shut the door, then lean my forehead against it. Talk to Mom, I think. She'll clear this up. I stuff the missionary's email into the pocket of my jacket on the way past. That's where I keep every slip of paper, receipt, tissue, and used tissue I accumulate. It's a bad habit. Right now I couldn't care less.
Mom, I know, is going to ream me out for interrupting her work. She's an artist through and through. She lives to make pottery and if she doesn't get to make enough of it in one day, she makes sure to spread the misery around. “Interrupting my pottery making is like choking me,” she's said before. “You don't like it if someone interrupts your breathing.” And true to analogy, she'll push every interruption away, no matter who they are or what it is they might want to tell her.
Today, however, I'll risk it.
Emily Mah Tippetts writes romance under the name E.M. Tippetts and science fiction and fantasy under the name Emily Mah. Originally from New Mexico, she now lives in London with her family. Before she was a published author, she was an attorney who specialized in real estate, contracts, and estate planning, especially literary estate planning.